I couldn’t possibly give London it’s due in a few pages although I am attempting to provide some meager information in these few pages. If you ever go to London, you absolutely must visit Buckingham Palace. I thought I’d be smart the first time and show up 30 minutes early the problem was that so did 10,000 other people. I took the tube to a point as close as I could get and walked the rest of the way. Turns out along the route I chose was a staging area for the guards and perhaps even some type of base, training and lodging area for everyone involved with the guards. There are several roads that lead up to the area in front of the castle with a roundabout and statue in the center. As I approached I could see my plan was slightly flawed and I was able to climb up on the stairs to watch part of the changing of the guards. It was interesting and at least I felt I tried.
After battling for position with people from all over the world I figured I’d attempt it later, so with schedule in hand I wandered off for a bit.
The statue in the roundabout is enormous and like everything in the area of the palace, well maintained. In case I didn’t mention it, a roundabout is a also known as a traffic circle, something I hadn’t seen until I arrived in Britain. I think the intended purpose is to smooth traffic flow but this only works if you know how to use it. I did see some people driving in a circle in at attempt to get out or drive into the wrong lane in the circle and tie up traffic. I believe some training is in order but overall I like them.
Back to the palace though. The streets in the area are literally filled with places hawking royal this and royal that. The royals must really draw in the crowds from around the world as the entire area was crawling with people. I hear the British government provides something on the order of $60 million each year to maintain the royal family but it’s an estimate.
Some Things You May Find Fascinating about the Palace
- Its name comes from an 18th-century Tory politician. John Sheffield, 3rd Earl of Mulgrave and Marquess of Normandy. He built Buckingham House for himself as a grand London home.
- It is 108m across the front, 120m deep (if you include the Quadrangle) and 24m high.
- The total floor area covers more than 77,000 square meters which is about 19 acres).
- It has 775 rooms, which include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.
- In 1883 the Ball Room became the first with electricity and between 1883 and 1887 electricity was extended throughout the Palace.
- Seriously, there are about 40,000 lights in the building.
- You like clocks? There are over 350 clocks and watches in the Palace, among the largest collections of working clocks anywhere.
- They are wound up every week by two full-time horological conservators. Think that job may be boring?
- Many of the State Rooms were used during the Royal Wedding reception for the marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. These include the Picture Gallery, Centre Room, Green Drawing Room , White Drawing Room, Music Room, Bow Room, Ball Room, Ball Supper Room, Throne Room.
- There are a suite of rooms for visiting heads of state at the Palace known as the Belgian suite. They are on the ground floor of the north-facing garden front. These rooms were first decorated for Prince Albert’s uncle Léopold I, first King of the Belgians. King Edward VIII also lived in these rooms during his reign.
- Over 800 staff members live here as well. Their jobs include housekeeping, horticulture, catering and correspondence to name a few.
- Have you ever seen the balcony of Buckingham Palace on television? Probably as it is one of the most famous in the world. The first recorded Royal balcony appearance took place in 1851, when Queen Victoria stepped on to it during celebrations for the opening of the Great Exhibition.
- A flag always flies above Buckingham Palace. When The Queen is in residence, the Royal Standard flies. When the Sovereign is not present, the Union Flag flies instead. A flag sergeant has the role of raising and lowering the right flag as The Queen arrives at or departs from the Palace.
So, now that you have some useful facts to amaze friends and family with lets move on, shall we? Did I mention I picked up some useful terms while lived in England? Brilliant (tends to be used to imply someone is not very bright or has just done something incredibly stupid), Pop (somewhere), shall (very polite). I could go on but I’ll drop them in from time to time and you try and find them.
I tried one more time to see the changing of the guards and the second time around I showed up 1 hour early and found myself up against the gate with a direct view. The crowds still managed to jockey for position during the entire process but I came away with some good photos and memories. After the show I walked back to the tube and moved on to other exotic locations as there are many.